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P. Michael Freeman: What an ‘uninformed and irresponsible’ column

Guest commentary

Posted: October 5, 2009 10:45 p.m.
Updated: October 5, 2009 10:43 p.m.
I am writing in response to  Cam Noltemeyer’s “Environmentally Speaking” guest editorial, “Buyer Beware in Fire Country,” published on Sept. 23, 2009.

First of all, Noltemeyer has offended me and every other firefighter with her not-so-subtle assertion that only more expensive homes are the target of fire protection during a wildland fire.

(Will limited resources force them to let some housing burn, as appears may have happened in Tujunga Canyon, while more expensive homes or cell towers are saved?

Will it be the senior housing that is protected or those expensive horse ranch houses that would not have been allowed but for the benefit of the senior housing density bonus?)

Such a comment is obviously uninformed and mean-spirited anytime, but within weeks of losing two Los Angeles County firefighters, it is despicable.

It is sad that someone who is a member of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) board can be so uninformed and irresponsible.

Firefighters are trained to protect life first, and then property. This includes their own lives.

The value of property at risk is never a consideration; property protection is always a matter of life safety, what is defensible given the terrain clearance and weather conditions.

While the Los Angles County Fire Department is neither in favor of nor opposed to development per se, we do always access what is required to assure fire safety where development is proposed.

(Now is the time for the county to recognize this planning disaster. ... The county must rigorously enforce its own planning rules. It is high time taxpayers are protected instead of just giving developers any approval they demand.)

It is a fact that present-day standards for new construction in fire-prone areas are the best bet for firefighters and prospective property owners.

Given Noltemeyer’s view as stated in her guest column, buyers should beware of SCOPE and its views that are self-serving, uninformed and an affront to gallant firefighters who place themselves in harm’s way for all property owners — whether affluent or not.

P. Michael Freeman is Los Angeles County fire chief. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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